Fontana Chill’ N Grillin with Police, Fire, and Community
By Dianne Anderson
Folks up for the challenge – and all backyard barbecuers – are being called to step up their culinary game for the Chill’ N Grillin’ Barbecue comPITition to face off against police and fire departments for the winning title of the best chicken or ribs around town.
On Saturday, September 10, entertainment and good eats run from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Fontana Park’s Sports Pavilion, located at 15556 Summit Ave. in Fontana. For $10 per person, the community can enjoy barbecue from each of the grillers in the competition.
“Chill’ N Grillin’ has bridged the gap with the community and local law enforcement,” said Ellen Turner, president of Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana. “It has been very successful every year. We invite the community to attend for great family fun, good entertainment, and good barbecue. It’s like a Fontana family reunion.”
Outreach events are a long family tradition, starting with Ms. Turner’s mother, Jessie Turner, who founded Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana nonprofit in 1965 when few other activities were available for the Black community in the area. Her mother also started the Black History Parade that continues as a mainstay for 54 years and counting.
“This event links all of us and helps unify communities throughout the inland empire and the barbecue is truly award-winning. Please come join us,” said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, a strong supporter of the event.
Vernall Townsend, a retired officer, said organizers are gearing up and excited about the upcoming annual event, which went on pause during the pandemic.
The 7th Annual “UNITY in commUNITY” Chill’ N Grillin’ Barbecue comPITition is hosted by the Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana, Fontana Police Officers Association, City of Fontana, and the Fontana Chamber of Commerce.
The celebration is also hoped to foster tight-knit communications with first responders, law enforcement, and paramedics. He said they want to show respect for those who put in hard hours and personal risk during the worst times of COVID-19.
“We know that this year, so many of our first responders almost burned out. We want to remind them and thank them for what they did, and encourage them so they can continue doing what they do,” he said.
Summit High School is also bringing its 100-piece band to provide entertainment. Fun time includes a KidZone, car show, vendors, different community groups, performances, dance teams, all working up an appetite to sample the great barbecue that competitors will be cooking up.
“We want to keep in mind the next generation coming up behind us, and give them a pat on the back, what they are doing, and encourage them as young people,” said Townsend, vice president of the Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana.
Vendor applications are still open for those looking to share their goods, wares, clothing, jewelry and or tabling nonprofit information for the community. Last year, about 500 people turned out in one of their best years, including other students from area schools.
“We are expecting the same folks this year. We have the Summit High School Band, along with dance groups. People like the entertainment, and while you’re there, it’s also good food,” he said.
Judges of the barbecue competition include Draymond Crawford, Pastor Danny Vasquez, Phillip Cothran, and Pastor Dwight Cooper.
Being a retired police officer from San Bernardino years ago, Townsend said he participates in meetings with Fontana and Rialto police departments and that it’s important to keep the lines of communication open between community and police.
A lot has transpired over the years, but he has seen changes for the better in Fontana. They regularly come together to talk about the issues involving young people, disparities in the community, or complaints.
“Even when we were marching for some of the killings that happened across the nation, the police departments at Fontana and Rialto were at the sidelines, but very cooperative,” said Townsend, a member of the local branch NAACP, and also works with Pastors United.
He said the departments are trying to be more transparent and asking men and women of color to apply to the force.
“And we hold them accountable, we are having a meeting today, part of it is asking about recruiting,” he said. “Right now, I’m pleased with what we’re doing and how they’re moving forward.”
He also sees the event as an opportunity for community to come out and ask the police questions, and learn how to get into the fields that have been traditionally closed off.
“There’s a lot of opportunities available that we may be able to take advantage of now,” he said.
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